Tuesday, 16 June 2015

My God Affair

So obviously by now, unless this is the first encounter you have ever had with my writing and my life, you know I am a Christian. 
You probably know a few more things as well.  I have a big family.  My faith is important.  I go to church. I am occasionally long-winded.
I like to share, so naturally you may be surprised to find out that I in fact, harbour some secrets.
When I first became a Christian, Brendan and I were attending the denominational church he grew up in.  We had an amazing community and I went through all of the appropriate "stages" that were expected in order to become a member of the church (I wasn't baptized and didn't attend church growing up so I had no previous "affiliation").  Our church family was awesome and supportive and I was often surprised (having grown up fairly anti-organized religion) at how normal, and fantastic, they all were.
I did everything properly.  I learned the prayers.  I learned the doctrine (well as much as was practically possible in a short time).  I'm typically a keener so I studied a lot.  We attended mass regularly and we were very diligent in our "religiosity".  Yes that is a word.
I had a few experiences with God early on while I was teaching in the school (an Alpha course we attended, some youth conferences and concerts) that I would now say were spirit filled, and although I loved them, this was not the norm for our faith.  We (as a couple) developed a very normal, predictable, and reasonable Christian routine.  It was good.  But it wasn't amazing.
Don't get me wrong, God was working some amazing things in our life but there wasn't a fiery passion deep in my soul every day.  I was still struggling so much with so many aspects of my life.  I wasn't taking any risks with my faith.  I certainly wasn't open to a whole lot of God's "supernatural" blessings in my life. This faith atmosphere made up most of the first 8 years of our marriage.
Then about a year ago something changed. 
I met God in a new way. 
Our life has been SO busy the last few years (check out the last few posts for details!). So, I started listening to podcasts and audiobooks, anything I could get to download on my phone.  I started learning about God in a new way. I came to discover that God is actually ridiculously amazing.  From the scientific support for a creator (Smart Men and God) to God's desire to be in my marriage, my parenting, and my business, I learned all sorts of amazing things about His character.  I had become a Christian but I had never really committed my life to Christ. 
Slowly though, things began to change.  Instead of learning about God (a topic which I have studied in detail), I began to meet God Himself. I began to have a relationship with God that was close and intimate and passionate and tangible.  Well, at least a kind of relationship.  In fact, when I look at where I am at now, I sometimes feel like its more of an affair.
I've been having an affair with God.
Here's the thing.  I am CRAZY about Him.  I am excited to spend time with Him.  I want to know His plans for me, and I want to follow His will to the letter. Doesn't that sound exciting.  It is. So why have I kept this such a secret? Why don't I talk about His amazing influence in my life?  Why do I avoid the topic with people I love and care about? Why have I treated my relationship with God like some scandalous secret?
In the new year, we actually made the decision to start attending a new church.  We really didn't tell anyone.  Its a non-denominational church and it is totally incredible.  I understand and appreciate the tradition and the ritual and sacramental faith we have experienced up to now.  This is something that will always be rooted deep in my heart.  This church is different though and I have found something here SO fulfilling and deepening.

We worship, we study scripture, we raise our hands in glorious praise to a God who is wholly good and merciful.  Our kids attend a Sunday school where they learn about service and God's love.  They have a strong and active men's group that meets to go clay pigeon shooting, eat steak, and then sit down and talk about the issues men face in today's world, forming bonds of friendship, mentorship and accountability.  They have women's retreats where we share and are nourished with encouragement, love and support in our roles as wives, mothers and business women.  It is everything we have been looking for in a church and worship community.  And we haven't told anyone.
At least I certainly don't talk about it.  Not with family or friends anyways.  We sneak off Sunday morning and then refer to "church" in general terms.  I don't mention the changes that have happened in the last year.  I don't boast of the miracles and love of God I witness.  I don't mention that every decision I make is run past Him and that everything I do, I try to discern what His will is for me.  I don't tell people that I think about Him and talk to Him all the time. By my estimation, it sounds like an affair to me.
If God is so important to me, then why don't I share? This "concealment" of my Christianity isn't new.  All the way along I've been selective about who I will get "spiritual" with.  Well, I think I'm starting to figure it out.
Surrender.  Sacrifice.  Fear.  Fear of judgement.  Fear of ridicule.  Misplaced motives.
I think these things all sum up why I keep my faith on the down low.  I don't want my faith journey to look "different".  What if they confront me about it?  What if they don't understand? It really comes down to one thing.

I might be uncomfortable.  People might certainly judge me.  I want all of the benefits of living in God's kingdom but I don't really want to indicate that I am a "kingdom" person. 

This is a problem though.  You see, God tells us to "Seek FIRST the kingdom of God, then all things (i.e. benefits of the kingdom) will be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).   We don't get the benefits without living the kingdom life.  All the time.  Everywhere. Publicly.

In fact, I've come to believe that the ONLY thing in this life that matters or is worth pursuing has to start with seeking God.

In the same way that "earthly" affairs are wrought with deceit and delusion, so are "Godly" affairs.  I want all of the blessing of a relationship with God while my conduct reeks of fear of commitment and half-hearted devotion.

The truth of the matter is I am obsessed.  I think of nothing more frequently than I do of God, my relationship with Him and His thoughts and plans for me.  

From my experience, when someone is in a real, functional and long-lasting relationship, they speak incredibly freely of the other person.  A relationship is based on trust, admiration, respect, and "relations".  It is publicly known that we are "Brendan and Jacquie". In fact, even if you didn't know my husband, if I spoke of "Brendan" you would quickly discern his role in my life. Everyone who knows me knows my connection to him and has a pretty good idea of the nature of our relationship. 

Alternately, an affair is secretive, covert and often consumed in dishonesty. An affair can never reach the same level of comfort, love and developmental depth because so much energy is spent just keeping it under wraps. 

So it is with God.

If I never have the courage to publicly seek God's kingdom,  our relationship will stay superficial.  I will never be able to show my true love and devotion to seeking God's plan, and therefore will spiritually stagnate.

There will be sacrifice, I have no doubt.  Remember, I used to judge those who needed God.

When you start a new relationship, not everyone wants to hear endlessly about your "amazing" new boyfriend.  Not everyone wants to hear endlessly about God's unbelievable love either.

I don't care anymore. 

God is so amazing and my life has become SO MUCH BETTER since I have begun this journey that I am willing to risk whatever it takes to show the world that this is no shallow affair.

I have to be willing to take it public.  To raise my arms in worship.  To let God's holy name roll off my lips just as easily as would the names of my family and friends. 

I have to stop seeking all the benefits of the relationship and just seek Him.  I need to acknowledge His presence, role and relationship in my life in EVERYTHING I think and do. It may take a long time.  It may take my whole life.  But I have to keep on seeking Him. In private. In public. In everything I do.

Sure this might not sound as sexy and scandalous as the affair did, but I'm pretty sure what lies ahead will blow everything else out of the water. 

Isn't that right Lord?


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